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Metro League Division 2

Saturday 18 September 2021

Old Wesley RFC 24 – 14 Lansdowne FC

Old Wesley laid down a firm marker on Saturday in Donnybrook – it’s going to take a lot to knock the long-time league champions off the top spot.

In a dominant display at their home grounds on Saturday, Old Wesley J2s showed the strength in depth of their squad and some military organization to deliver a comprehensive victory over a depleted, but spirited Lansdowne side.

The first half belonged to the home team, running in three tries without reply.  Lansdowne weren’t playing badly, putting in some heroic tackles and good running breaks, but while our efforts didn’t want for courage or for skill, they lacked cohesion. Players were getting exposed in attack and defence, while the hosts hit rucks in numbers, supported each other in breaks so they could off load and their tries were a lethal combination of robust set pieces followed by piercing running lines.

The second half told a different story. Emboldened by talks from coaches Michael Quinn and Dave Tunney and also from the several leaders within the squad, the Lansdowne side started the second half with renewed vigor and determination and gave the hosts a taste of their own medicine.  From the lineout that followed an excellent kick off, Lansdowne moved the ball with controlled aggression, spreading it wide occasionally to vary the play, but mostly punching through the centre of the Old Wesley defences and making steady progress towards the line.  Inevitably, one short run led to a break of the gain line and a debut try for hooker Matt ShepherdPeter Fitzgerald added the points and within minutes of the restart Lansdowne were back in a game. 19 – 7.

We were at least a match for the league champions for the third quarter and so it was against the run of play that Old Wesley found themselves back in our 22 and running the phases to score again in the corner. 24 – 7.

But nobody in a Lansdowne jersey was going to roll over and notable leadership was witnessed from the Fitzgerald brothers, Mike at number 8 and Peter at 10.  Indeed, five minutes after the hosts’ bonus point try was conceded it was Peter that kicked us into Wesley territory and finished off an excellent sequence of play with a darting break through the normally impenetrable defense for a try. He then ran out to quickly take the conversion 24 – 14. If Carlsberg did individual effort …

Though that was the final score and in truth Wesley never looked like panicking, Lansdowne never stopped attacking the Wesley try line. The injection of seasoned subs, Rob Timlin, the Swiss Army Knife of Lansdowne rugby and Cathal “twinkle toes” McNamara only added to our energy. And, grieves me though it does to admit it, Aaron Grogan also added what was for him a rare note of urgency with quick and accurate passing and a couple of excellently placed box kicks. There were rumours that he tackled someone as well, though no one was prepared to confirm this.

Special mention too for an excellent performance from a promising debutant, Jack Carrigy and concern for Bill McNamara who was adapting well to the unfamiliar full back slot when injured.

And finally, thanks to the excellent support from the extended junior squad, or family. As one stalwart, Ross Smith slurred, “we’re not just here because the bar is open, you know!”

Match Report – Brian Whelan

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